Using Twitter to Bring About Educational Change

by Staff Writers

Yesterday's post, Is Twitter the Driving Force Behind Upcoming Educational Change? examined the ways in which Twitter is a potential driving force for change in education. The conclusion was that, in much the same way social media played a role in the Arab Spring, Twitter and the openness of communication and easy exchange of ideas that it allows for could play a key role in driving educational reform in the near future. Here are some tips for educators, informed citizens, and students to get involved in the conversation and help lead the way for educational reform.

Step 1: Follow the Conversation

When I first started using Twitter, I was skeptical: how could I filter out the noise and inane babble of people tweeting what they had for dinner, in order to gain any useful information in 140 characters OR LESS? I found that there are two keys to making Twitter a useful vehicle for receiving information and following a conversation as it happens.

  1. Follow good people – Sounds easy, but for the novice tweeter, it can be overwhelming. The best advice is to start by examining the discussions surrounding a couple of relevant hashtags such as #edreform, #edpolicy, #edchat, or #edreformtribe. See who is posting important information or links and follow them. Then take it one step further. Check the profiles of those whose posts you respect and see who they are following. Follow the ones that seem most relevant, insightful, and revolutionary, whatever your criteria are.
  2. Make a list – Lists are the way to filter out the noise. Using a Twitter app like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Tweetbot, or Tweetcaster allows you to display just the content from those users who you specify by adding them to a list. For example you might have a list which displays only tweets related to higher education or K-12, or a list that gathers all of the education-related tweets of those you have specified. Lists are a powerful tool and allow you to focus on specific topics or areas and to weed out much of the interference that might appear in the stream. As an example, here is a link to my "Marquis Education List," which I use to track what's happening in the world of education.

Step 2: Contribute to the Discussion

Once you see how Twitter works and have started to build a list of people that you follow, and who will hopefully follow you in return, it is time to start contributing to the discussion. There are three ways to do this.

  1. Retweeting – Retweeting falls into two different categories; the straight retweet and the quote. If you do not wish to modify the original tweet, simply retweet it. It goes out to all those following you just like you found it. Retweeting with a quote allows you to enhance the original by quoting it and adding to it or modifying it. This could mean referencing the original to continue a conversation, adding a relevant url, or hashtag, or rebutting the post.
  2. The stand-alone tweet – Not to be confused with the dreaded "personal tweet," a stand-alone post is a self-contained 140 character statement or question. It can either encompass the entirety of your point or be a part of a longer series of tweets that address an issue in more depth. This type of tweet is good for expressing your opinion of something (use the relevant hashtag or Twitter handle to make sure people know what you are referring to), asking or answering a question, or disseminating a quote or self-explanatory point.
  3. The link tweet – Once you have begun following conversations and participating in them, you will develop your thoughts into formats that exceed the character constraints of Twitter. It then becomes time to write a blog and include a link to it in your tweet. Urls for blogs are generally too long to include, so you will want to use a service such as Bitly to shorten your links to something more manageable. Once you get to this level you are taking command of the conversation, so make sure that you are including the most relevant hashtags, this will help to spread your post far beyond the scope of those who follow you and their followers.

Step 3: Take Action

Sharing your ideas to a group of like-minded followers is great and can really help to coalesce your ideas and form a direction in which you would like to guide change. Once you have refined and shared your ideas among like-minded individuals online, it is time to take the next step and become an evangelist for educational change. Here are two ways how:

  1. Share Locally – You have done all of the virtual legwork on Twitter and now it is time to hit the pavement and do the real legwork. Not everyone is on Twitter and certainly, only a small percentage of those who are have followed your efforts to start educational change. For those who aren't already engaged in the conversation you will need to talk to them F2F. Start with those whom you know and interact with already – friends, family, co-workers, and random acquaintances.
  2. Get Political – To really get the message out and spark large-scale change you will need to politicize your efforts. The 140Elect website has an excellent resource for political tweeting. They explaining how to build a Twitter community, engage people in the issue, gain influential followers, compose compelling tweets, and create buzz around an issue. Following their guidelines for political tweeting is a great place to begin leveraging your Twitter account for educational change.

Build your confidence in discussing the issues within safe groups then branch out and conquer the world. No worries, all of your Twitter followers and members of the #edreformtribe will be right there with you.

Join the movement: #edreformtribe
Follow me on Twitter @drjwmarquis